Exactly 10 years ago this week, a rapper named Kanye West was putting the finishing touches on an album titled Graduation. He had already released the single “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” but he hurled himself headfirst into the August of 2007 with a song called “Stronger.” Built from an ingenious Daft Punk sample, it would go on to become one of West’s all-time biggest hits, topping charts around the world and garnering Ye’s third number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
In the decade since its release, its influence has been immeasurable, with such far-reaching consequences as revolutionizing the use of electronica in hip-hop to introducing Daft Punk to their largest audience yet to a music video that birthed shutter shades unto the world.
To commemorate its release, we’ve rounded up 10 facts about the iconic track that you may not be familiar with.
1. It was inspired by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
Kanye’s reading habits are anyone’s guess, but he or someone close to him must have been brushing up on their Nietzsche in 2007. The philosopher is responsible for the infamous phrase “What does not kill him, makes him stronger,” a tenet that is directly reworked in the song’s chorus.
But the Nietzschean homages aren’t limited to the chorus; Kanye’s multiple references to Apollonia is most certainly a Prince-reference, yet Nietzsche is also widely known for his dissection of the ‘Apollonian and Dionysian’ dichotomy in his 1872 work The Birth of Tragedy. Coincidence? We think not.
2. It took a small army to record.
Across studios in New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo, Kanye employed a total of eight audio engineers and 11 mixing engineers to bring the song to life. Together, they created over 50 versions of the track in total.
3. Timbaland’s song “The Way I Are” saved it.
After a recording process that can only be described as Kubrickian in its insane attention to detail, West came close to throwing in the towel after he was unable to settle on a kick drum programming that suited his needs. It was only after hearing Timbaland’s song “The Way I Are” in a club that divine inspiration struck.
Kanye flew the legendary producer out to help him create a version he could use. But even that minute aspect of the song went through 12 iterations before he settled on the one that appears in the finished version.
4. The final mix was hammered out in nearly a single day.
An untold amount of hours went into the creation of “Stronger,” but after mix after mix after mix, the version that would go on to appear on Graduation was almost entirely constructed in a single 16-hour studio session with mixer Manny Marroquin, who helmed much of Kanye’s debut The College Dropout.
5. The music video began filming before the song was even finished.
It would seem common sense to film a music video after one has finished the corresponding song, but who are we to judge Kanye’s creative process? Production on “Stronger”‘s visual was underway before he had written its second verse.
6. It was also filmed entirely guerilla-style.
Kanye and director Hype Williams had a simple idea for the video: go to Japan and film. So the pair flew to Tokyo and went to town. Not a single filming permit was obtained, and singer Cassie, who appears in cameo, was not told any information regarding the song or concept (or lack thereof).
7. Editing the video took a whopping three months.
The painstakingly perfectionist recording process of “Stronger” was only matched by the equally strenuous task of finishing the visual, a process that took a total of 10 weeks. Which, given the four-minute runtime, means that they spent just under a month for each minute of footage. In an interview with MTV at the time of its release, Kanye’s manager Don “C” Crawley said that Ye and Hype Williams “both were going to have brain aneurysms” during the grueling post-production.
8. Michael Jackson called Kanye about his jacket in the music video.
Even a casual listener of Kanye’s work knows that the man has an obsession with Michael Jackson. That is, if you consider name-dropping the King of Pop in every single one of your studio albums borderline obsessive. So it must have been surreal for Kanye to have his idol ring him up to ask where he too could get a jacket like the one so prominently featured in the track’s music video. Dreams do come true, as long as you and your stylist make the right choices.
9. Oh, and those shutter shades?
Kanye spent three months looking for the infamous shutter shades. Which if you’re paying attention, means that yes, it took the same amount of time to edit the visual as it did for Ye to literally scour the planet for the exact kind of sunglasses he was envisioning.
10. It was voted as the “greatest workout song of all time.”
In 2011, the massive gym chain Gold’s Gym held a nationwide poll to determine the greatest workout song of all time. “Stronger,” obviously, was named the best of the best. It beat out such frenetic tracks as Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” Technotronic’s “Pump Up the Jam” and, perhaps most impressively, the theme song to Rocky.
BONUS: it was used for the most embarrassing scene in television this decade.
Technically a matter of opinion, but watch this scene and try to think of something more cringe.
For more like this, take a look at 20 reasons why Missy Elliott’s ‘Supa Dupa Fly’ is still the greatest 20 years on right here.
- Lead Image: Kanye West VEVO